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October 6, 2008

from the latest CAUT Bulletin:

CAUT Urges Opposition to Gov’t Plan

The New Brunswick Government is trying a second time to introduce major changes to its post-secondary education system.

Premier Shawn Graham unveiled a new action plan in the summer, based on a report released several weeks earlier by the working group on post-secondary education — composed of four of the pr­o­vince’s university pre­sidents and three community college principals.

The new plan follows the premier’s abandonment last year of the post-secondary education commission report that met with fierce, province-wide opposition led by the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations and the faculty association at the University of New Brunswick.

CAUT executive director James Turk said the government is still getting it wrong.

The story goes on to describe the main points of Dr. Turk’s talk here at UNB Saint John last month.

Penni Stewart’s President’s Column addresses the lack of accountability in the the ways federal transfer funds are allocated:

Fed’s Funding Policy Misguided

… Canadian universities receive $8,000 less in funding per student than four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S., resulting in larger class sizes and a student to full-time faculty ratio ranging from 19.4 in Newfoundland to 27.0 in Ontario.

Stewart calls for, first, “the broad grants for post-secondary education to the provinces to be removed from the Canada Social Transfer and placed in a separate fund,” and second, for a Post-Secondary Education Act that

would establish a federal obligation for core funding, based on national guidelines and the principle that education should be nonprofit and available to all who qualify academically, regardless of means. Also, it would mandate collegial governance and academic freedom throughout the post-secondary system. Clearly we need a debate about the inadequacy of federal spending on higher education, but it’s hard to have such a debate when the contribution can’t be measured!

And from University Affairs:

The search is on at the top by Rosanna Tamburri: “As Canada and the U.S. experience a generational turnover of university presidents, the tough task of filling the executive office gets even tougher”

And finally, Christine Overall has written the first of a new column, and it is promising:

Canadian universities are suffering from an ethical failure of nerve.

Many of us have become diffident about our roles as professors, administrators, staff and students. We seldom engage in genuine debate about the university’s role in society. We seldom discuss the good and bad uses to which our research might be put. We seldom ask ourselves the purpose of postsecondary education.…

Indeed, Canadian universities proclaim that they’re devoted to excellent research and teaching, but that interest is belied by what is actually happening in academe: the proliferation of business models, methods and goals within academia; the focus on measurement and the preoccupation with accountability, performance indicators, quality assurance and academic reviews; the emphasis on competitiveness whether among students, scholars or universities themselves; the reliance on grant-getting as a criterion of success; the strong support for the commercialization of academic knowledge in the so-called knowledge economy; the development of a memorable “brand” for the university “commodity” so it can occupy a unique “niche;” the acceptance of severely limited resources, distributed in ways that are often not proportional to academic needs; dependence on what donors want, and on the agenda of the fundraising and development office; submission to academic fads – the same fads every other university in North America is adopting – and upholding harmful university “traditions.”

Lots to talk about.

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